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Old 11-27-2018, 05:21 PM
floyd86uk floyd86uk is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2018
Location: Oxford, UK
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Weird shifting and a now daily TRANS.FAILSAFE PROG...

Hi All,

Really hoping this isn't just another Trans.Failsafe thread, but my E53 has been insulting my intelligence for a few weeks now! Sorry for the long post, but I wanna get it all out there...

I bought my 2004 X5 E53 3.0d with 140,000 miles on it at the start of September this year. I've always been a bit concered about the auto gear box. It seems to hold onto the lower gears for too long and every now and then would rev up to 3500 before shifting into 2nd/3rd when pulling away slowly. Although it still has its speed when kicking down, it's impossible to keep it from peaking at around 2500/3000 when trying to drive sensibly. I know I have a sport model, but it doesn't seem right that if I want to pull away slowly, it needs to rev up that high with almost zero power following it.

I took it to my mechanic for a service in mid-september and after giving it a good going over, the only standout issue was a broken brake pad wear sensor cable.

In mid-october, I changed the stereo from the OEM model to an Xtrons Android one (which is a bit pants to be honest). I also fitted a reverse camera (also, a bit pants). This took several hours to complete and I didn't disconnect the battery (probably should have). Either way, having the door open and the interior lights on for a couple hours killed the battery. When trying to start the car, I saw TRANS.FAILSAFE PROG for the very first time. I charged the battery and this did not come back.

2 weeks later, driving home from work, I got SELF.LEVELSUSP INACT flag up. I got home, cut the engine and it cleared. This message has not returned to this day. There was no apparent change to the car when this message was up.

1 week later, I was driving early in the cold and TRANS.FAILSAFE PROG came back. The car kicked into 3rd gear and I had to limp home. Restarted a few hours later and all was well.

A few days later, driving to the supermarket, TRANS.FAILSAFE PROG came back. It has happened every day since.

Something to note is that it NEVER does this from cold start. It ALWAYS kicks in when the coolant gauge is on 1/4 - without fail. Every day. I'm at the point where I know exactly when it will happen. When in this state, gears can be selected without needing to press the brake.

I have taken it to my mechanic who scanned the fault codes and got the following for Transmission:

4E87 - Solenoid Valve 4 (shift lock)
51AE - CAN brake light signal
5088 - Sensor gearbox selector switch

The mechanic cleared the codes and wanted me to drive it to see if TRANS.FAILSAFE PROG happened again. Then he would rescan and see what came back. Fair enough.

As I say, it comes back every day. So just waiting for him to be available to hook the X5 up again.

Most forum searches have pointed me in the direction of the battery being dud. The fact that the first time I got this message was during a flat battery situation made me think that it could be related. However, I have had the battery checked and it (unfortunately) passed with flying colours.

I'm wondering if the previous SELF.LEVELSUSP INACT message is somehow connected to whatever is causing the daily TRANS.FAILSAFE PROG message. Long shot, but the car went from no warnings to these issues being flagged within days of each other and all began after I killed the battery.

I would think that this is purely electrical, if it wasn't for the fact that I've always been a bit freaked out by the late shifting and to be honest, slight clunking of the gears.

It seems that TRANS.FAILSAFE PROG happens to a lot of BMW's and Range Rovers - all for different reasons, so I'm not expecting this to be a common cause. However, I'm wondering if anyone else has had similar symptoms/circumstances to mine and if anyone had any ideas of how to continue?

I am not sure if the trans fluid has ever been changed and I'm trying to get some ideas to fire at my mechanic. I'm pretty handy at doing things myself, but I don't have garage space in my current house to be able to get my hands too dirty. I have changed the drivers side door handle carrier, but that's about it so far! Certainly no means to start tinkering with the trans, if required.

Any ideas greatly appreciated! Thanks

Last edited by floyd86uk; 11-27-2018 at 05:35 PM. Reason: Missed out year... 2004
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